My New Year’s Resolution was a typical one–to get back in shape and finally lose some weight. Little by little since college I have let things slide…from Freshmen 5 to Sophomore 10 to Junior 15, and so on.

I decided to give this resolution some teeth by agreeing to run a half-marathon this summer with Lauren’s dad. I figured the best way to beat off my inner demons was to subject myself to an embarrassing defeat by the new father-in-law. Lauren’s dad is a regular runner and has done several marathons over the years….

Running here is fascinating…hard to describe in words. As a white person I already stand out like a sore thumb in our community. But running takes it to a whole new level. The first few times I went out in shorts, which really caused a stir. Showing legs is not something commonly done by men here, especially when the legs are as pasty-white as mine. So, I picked up some wind-breaker pants at a second-hand clothing shop. This helped, but only a little…

Running through Munaku feels a little like being the guy running through town with an Olympic Torch. Nearly everyone I pass acknowledges me in some way, although the reactions vary. Among young children, the reaction is almost always joy and fascination. Once they spot me, they usually yell “Jangu!” to their friends, which means “come here”…i.e. “you’ve got to see this!”

Teenagers are less fascinated. Their reaction is usually either to laugh, to roll their eyes, or to pretend not to care while they proceed to stare at me in wonder.

Adults’ reactions are across the board…from a standard greeting, to eye rolls, to laughter, or just a smile.

As I run, I try to predict the thoughts behind the facial expressions. My guesses include things like…

“He must not work hard enough during the day if he has to run just for exercise…”

“Who does this guy think he is?”

“Why doesn’t he want to be fat? In our culture, becoming fat is a sign of health and wealth.”

“He has funny looking legs”

Sometimes folks say things to me, so I have a chance to actually see what they are thinking. So far, I’ve heard…

“Who are you running from?”

“My friend (a teenage girl) loves you!”

“Well done.”

And my favorite so far….

“Are you running because you’re fat?”

To which I responded…”yes, I’m running because I am fat.”